Energy Audits: Big Savings And Short ROI
Great Eastern Energy
Foodservice facilities, especially restaurants, typically use more natural gas and electricity than any other type of commercial buildings. Energy audits can drastically reduce the energy use of a foodservice operation by uncovering areas where power is being wasted. Such audits should include a complete inspection of the energy performance of a facility and the preparation of an implementation report that could potentially save up to 40% of usage.
A simple audit includes a general check of the facility, covering most of the general high energy-use areas. However, a comprehensive audit will analyze all aspects of a foodservice to achieve maximum savings. There is a cost difference between the simple and comprehensive audits, but even the comprehensive route strives for a 2- to 3-year ROI.
A comprehensive audit provides a detailed report of a restaurant’s energy needs including but not limited to heating, cooling, lighting, appliances, refrigeration systems, exterior and interior construction, and business processes and technology. Audits can reveal engineering flaws, inefficient heating and cooling, inefficient foodservice equipment and suggest measures to improve energy efficiency in each area.
A thorough energy audit will consist of at least six steps:
1. A detailed review of current utility bills to identify the most cost effective energy rates for the facility. Prior to the completion of a comprehensive energy assessment, it should be determined if lower supply side utility costs (in deregulated areas) are available. Supply side savings in natural gas and electricity costs can immediately improve operators’ bottom line.
2. The next step involves a preliminary on-site assessment. Auditing personnel will visit the foodservice to assess and record system information regarding the facility.
3. A detailed site survey will be completed to gather data on all aspects of energy consumption within the facility. Engineers will follow and analyze how the building systems are performing and evaluate lighting and electrical systems, oil and gas, windows, HVAC, industrial refrigeration, compressed air, communication and security systems and kitchen equipment.
4. An energy blueprint is prepared that contains detailed findings for cost-cutting measures and recommended implementation programs to accomplish them. Additional assistance should be provided in obtaining state and federal energy conservation funding, grants, tax credits, interest loans and materials and labor for facility upgrades.
5. An energy auditor then recommends professional contractors to manage project implementation programs, overseeing all aspects of operation and construction management. Auditors can prepare specifications for bid packages, bid evaluations, and construction management, including field inspection and monitoring, final inspection and construction completion acceptance.
6. Periodic follow up and monitoring s done to ensure that systems are performing as expected. Recommendations for corrective actions are provided as needed and reviews conducted with the facility engineering staff to optimize the solutions implemented from the studies.
Bottom line: Some efficiency measures for foodservices can be implemented with little or no investment. For those improvements requiring a larger initial outlay, many can pay for themselves quickly and, if planned well, can even enhance the ambience, appearance, and comfort of a restaurant. Most facilities can save up to 20% from obtaining lower supply side costs for natural gas and electricity. Facilities can lower usage up to 40% by utilizing proper energy audits and benchmarking programs in addition to qualifying for state, local and utility benefits.